China Beefs Up PLA's Cyber Militia

Friday, October 21, 2011

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China has recruited thousands of hackers for a cyber force tasked with infiltrating a multitude of computers to establish a large botnet which can be utilized to conduct denial of service (DoS) campaigns to disrupt targeted websites as well as conducting cyber espionage activity to pilfer sensitive information.

While numerous nations are involved in varying levels of cyber aggression, what makes the Chinese threat so much more palpable is the systemic nature and comparatively large scale of the state-sponsored cyber-offensive operations, as evidenced by attacks like Operation Aurora, Ghostnet, and most recently Night Dragon.

The Spectator's George H. Wittman writes that "the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is reportedly funding a vast complex of part-time cyber-devotees to supplement and compliment the official structure of cyber interception and invasion."

The Chinese strategy extends well beyond potential military targets, posing a significant threat to the core industries and critical infrastructure systems a nation relies upon to sustain a healthy military presence.

"Effectively acting as a PLA-associated technical reserve, its mostly under-thirty part-timers are drawn largely from civilian companies and university-level institutes operating in electronic fields. A national guard of "cyber soldiers" provides China's central cyber security system with a particularly useful training ground and support structure for the already vastly expanded echelon of professionals committed to both the defensive and offensive aspects of electronic warfare," Wittman said.

Attacks on private sector assets are seen as a central aspect of a successful Chinese cyber aggression strategy by eroding the industrial and technological superiority of an adversary over time.

Chinese hackers are not merely tasked with infiltrating established western economies, they are also conducting extensive operations in emerging economies and extending their presence in regions fraught by political conflict and economic turmoil.

"Beijing views the cyber world as an immense battleground on which to gain advantage over its perceived enemies and at the same time act as a defensive bulwark against counter-cyber intrusions. Beijing believes firmly in the importance of the mobilization of volunteer talent in order to add substantially to the intellectual firepower of national security and defense activity," Wittman writes.

Back in May of this year, Chinese government officials have acknowledged the existence of a military unit dedicated to cyber warfare activity, according to intelligence sources.

Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said that the unit, called the "cyber blue team", is designed to "better safeguard the internet security of the armed forces".

Geng stated that the unit was organized in response to international threats to Internet security, and that China is still relatively weak in regards to cyber security and its ability to defend against cyberterrorism.

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